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Documented: CafePress Shop Sales Posted as Marketplace Sales, To CafePress' Benefit. Check Your Reports!

On June 2, 2009, we at Irregular Times withdrew from one of the two ways of selling shirts, bumper stickers and buttons at the online merchandiser CafePress. On June 1, CafePress started charging customers more and (paying its graphic designers less) when purchases were made via their search engine they call the “Marketplace.” We didn’t like those changes, so instead of just whining about it, we withdrew our participation in the CafePress Marketplace. For eight days, we have only been selling our liberal gear through our individual shop, where we’ve set our prices lower and made a bit more ourselves in commission to boot.

I’m telling you this because our withdrawal from the Marketplace system has exposed, and allowed us to document, a significant error in the CafePress Sales Reports. CafePress is erroneously marking sales made through shops as “Marketplace” sales. These errors result in reduced payments to graphic designers and increased profits to CafePress itself. If you earn your living by making sales through CafePress, I urge you in the strongest terms to track the paths of your sales, document any errors you find, and share your documentation with CafePress and the public.

My documentation follows below.

At 8:30 AM yesterday (June 9, 2009), I noticed the following sale reported in the CafePress Sales Report for Irregular Times:

CafePress Error: Shop Sale Reported as Marketplace Sale

I’ve deleted customers’ names for the sake of their privacy, and I’ve highlighted the order in question. Otherwise, this and subsequent screen captures are unaltered.

This is an order for an item placed on the CafePress shop “irregulargoods“… item number 160745631, a bumper sticker. The bumper sticker looks like this:

Ben Franklin on Liberty Bumper Sticker

There are a few things wrong with this order. First, the reported sale price for the bumper sticker is $7.00, a high price that we have never posted for CafePress and that CafePress itself does not even charge on its Marketplace (CafePress’ own pre-set charge is $5.00). Second, the reported source for the sale is the CafePress Marketplace.

You can document for yourself that this bumper sticker is not available on the CafePress Marketplace. The way to see all the items from a particular shop that are up on the marketplace is to follow the form:

http://shop.cafepress.com/i_love_shirts

Where “i_love_shirts” is the name of a CafePress shop. Go ahead, try cutting and pasting that sample URL in and you’ll see what I mean. Then change “i_love_shirts” to “irregulargoods,” the name of our Irregular Times CafePress shop. When you put

http://shop.cafepress.com/irregulargoods

into your browser’s address box, you’ll see this:

Documented: Irregulargoods is off the CafePress Marketplace

Go ahead and use the CafePress search box you see in the upper left-hand corner of the image above. As you’ll see, this bumper sticker from Irregular Goods isn’t available on the marketplace (you’ll find others, from other shopkeepers, using the same quote, but not this one).

Bottom line: this bumper sticker is not available on the CafePress Marketplace. The entire shop “irregulargoods” is off the Marketplace. And yet this sale is being shown, at an incorrect price, as a Marketplace sale.

At 9:05 AM, I called the CafePress service line (1-877-809-1659) to report this error. The customer service representative on the other end of the line replied to agree that the shop “irregulargoods” had been taken off the Marketplace. When I asked how this could possibly have happened, the customer service representative replied: “Oh, well someone could have bought something before your change last week and then it could have stayed in their cart for a while, and then they could have finished the sale today.” This seemed pretty far-fetched to me, so I asked for CafePress to check back on the history of that particular sale and see if that was what happened, or if there had been a mistake in the CafePress Sales Report. The customer service representative for CafePress agreed this would be done, and told me I would receive a response by phone or e-mail later that day.

I actually didn’t receive any contact from CafePress during the day, and when I logged back into CafePress.com yesterday evening to check my account, I noticed the following additional sales report:

Another CafePress Error: Another Shop Sale Shown as a Marketplace Sale

Again, I’ve covered up the names of the people ordering for their privacy’s sake. This time, someone ordered item 223982475, an “Earth for Obama bumper sticker,” from the shop “irregulargoods.” And again, it showed up as a Marketplace order, when this is not possible. You can find this bumper sticker for sale off the Marketplace, in our non-Marketplace shop. But as I’ve stated before, we opted “irregulargoods” out of the Marketplace system on June 2, eight days ago. I immediately made a Google search for “Earth for Obama bumper sticker,” and I did find this result leading to the CafePress Marketplace:

Google Search of June 9, 2009: Earth for Obama Bumper Sticker

As you can see from the URL, the link refers to the same product number: 223982475. But upon clicking that link (a link that’s there because Google hasn’t reindexed all of cafepress.com yet), I obtained the following 404 web page from CafePress:

CafePress Product Not Found Page for Item 223982475: Earth for Obama bumper sticker

There you have it: the item is verified off the Marketplace — as it was taken off the Marketplace on June 2 — and yet we here we have the CafePress Sales Report indicating a “Marketplace” sale. As with the Ben Franklin bumper sticker, a search of the CafePress Marketplace through the search box can find no trace of this bumper sticker being offered.

Why am I obsessing over this? “Marketplace” sales, I should remind you, cost the customer more while earning CafePress more profit and the graphic designer less pay. When the “Earth for Obama” bumper sticker was sold as a “Marketplace” sale, according to this Sales Report, we at Irregular Times pocketed $0.50, CafePress pocketed $4.50, and the customer shelled out $5.00. If the “Earth for Obama” bumper sticker was credited as sold via our Shop, we at Irregular Times would pocket $1.16, CafePress would pocket $3.49, and the customer would have to shell out $4.65.

Now, I’m not too proud to admit I’m strapped for cash in these difficult economic times. Still, the difference for one bumper sticker sale — 35 cents more in cost to the customer, 66 cents less paid out to me and $1.51 more in profit for CafePress — hardly seems scandalous. This sort of money won’t keep gramma’s home from being foreclosed. But that’s one sale. CafePress doesn’t make just one sale every day, and I’m not the only shopkeeper out there. If there are ten thousand of these mistakes made every day, that makes CafePress an extra $15,100, it keeps an extra $6,600 out of the pockets of graphic designers, and it results in overcharges of $3,500 to customers. That would be the daily tally. If these errors persisted over a 30-day month, that would make CafePress an extra $453,000, it would keep an extra $198,000 out of the pockets of graphic designers, and it would result in overcharges of $105,000 to customers. That’s not chump change.

I must stress that those latter figures are hypothetical; the only numbers I know for sure are the numbers I’ve shown you for our particular shop. But for some time now there have been complaints without documentation that sales have been improperly marked as Marketplace sales when they actually occurred through shops. I’m being obsessive in order to thoroughly document that a problem people have been describing for many months is actually present. I think I’ve established that this is the case.

At 7:30 pm yesterday evening, I called the CafePress service line. I noted the new problem, and over the phone I described the same level of documentation to them that I’ve shown graphically to you. I was put on long hold. When the service representative returned to the phone after conferring with others, I was given a wholly new different account for the discrepancy. Basically, CafePress admitted they have errors in their Sales Reports. The following are quotes I wrote down as the service representative said them to me last night:

“We have an issue with some of the sales being marked as Marketplace sales when they were really shop sales…. It’s going to go back to the beginning of June.”

“We’re really sorry about all of the problems.”

“Give us about 24-48 hours to fix it.”

Status: As of this moment, 30 hours after I first reported the errors, the CafePress Sales Report errors on my account have not been rectified. I’ll write an update if and when the errors have been rectified, or 18 hours from now, whichever comes first.

If you are a CafePress customer, and you made an order through a shop that ended up giving you a final, higher cost than what you were first shown, gather documentation for this change, call the CafePress service line (1-877-809-1659) to report the issue, and also share your experience publicly here.

If you are a CafePress shopkeeper, and you see an order on your Sales Report that appears as a “Marketplace” sale but you know is actually a shop sale, gather documentation for this error, call the CafePress service line (1-877-809-1659) to report the issue, and yes, share your experience — with documentation — here.

Let us not speak of motivations or purposes, since those are unobserved and it is difficult to establish malicious intent where none may exist. Let’s instead focus on documented behavior, on what has demonstrably occurred. Please restrict your comments to the domain of that which you can show to be true.

A business like CafePress runs on trust between customers, designers and the corporation itself. That trust was strained when CafePress changed the terms of its relationship to its own benefit and to the detriment of customers and designers. That trust is broken when CafePress fails — again to its own benefit and to the detriment of customers and designers — to accurately report the nature and terms of sales. If that trust is to be restored, an accurate accounting of just what is going on behind the curtain at CafePress is essential. Please help me to obtain that accurate account.

35 comments to Documented: CafePress Shop Sales Posted as Marketplace Sales, To CafePress' Benefit. Check Your Reports!

  • JCollins

    I work for CafePress as the Product Line Manager for Shops. Jim’s post above illustrates a defect which is currently being resolved. It’s signature is well understood and it’s incidence rate is *extremely* low. Regardless of the number of shopkeepers who are affected, it’s unacceptable, its impact cannot be understated and CafePress has every intention of resolving the issue and correcting the commission errors. Defects related to shopkeeper commissions are not taken lightly.

    The defect was exposed when the pricing differences between retail marketplace and shops went into effect on June 1, 2009. Since that date, CafePress has been actively documenting each erroneous commission calculation. Each error will be retroactively adjusted before shopkeeper payout. CafePress has no malicious intent. This is a defect.

    Regarding Jim’s particular order, the Customer Service Representative was correct in asserting that the buying customer already had those items in his/her cart. The session for the order in question begins on a retail marketplace search results page for a particular topic on button and magnet button products. Upon arrival at the buttons page, the buyer’s cart already had 11 items in it, including item # 160745631. These items were added to cart *before* the irregulargoods shop opted out of the marketplace and at the time of the sale, there was no filtering logic to prevent those items from being purchased if they had *already* been added to cart and the sales transaction was permitted.

    That said, if a buying customer adds items to his/her cart and subsequently returns to purchase those items but they are no longer available in that sales channel, it is logical and appropriate that the customer shouldn’t be allowed to purchase those items within that sales channel context. In the future, sales of products from opted out shops, if already in the cart, will not be permitted from the retail marketplace sales channel.

    The $7.00 sell price for this particular order is the result of a retail product pricing test which was running when the purchase was made. This particular user’s session was included in the test group.

    I hope this helps to clarify the situation a bit and I appreciate that Jim took the time to clearly articulate the facts as he knew them.

    I encourage anyone who sees what they believe to be an erroneous commission calculation for an item they’ve sold either in their shop or in the retail marketplace, to contact our customer service department so that we may resolve it.

    Thanks very much,

    Josh
    Product Line Manager, Shops

    • Jim

      Thank you for writing here. I have some questions:

      1. Will CafePress be transparent about reporting such errors to shopkeepers when they occur in the future, or will CafePress continue to not report those errors?

      2. How many of these errors are there? You might say an incidence rate of 1% is “extremely low,” for instance, but if CafePress is making a million sales a week then that would be 10,000 errors. Some hard numbers would be useful here and would help restore trust.

      3. If the “incidence rate is *extremely* low,” then why have I had two people posting comments this week which they referred to multiple others “still” reporting sales showing up erroneously as coming from the Marketplace?

      4. Why did it take a prominently posted web article for me to get a return contact from CafePress? In both of the incidents I described, CafePress representatives said they’d get back in touch, then did not. This is a longstanding habit of CafePress service, heading back years.

      5. Thank you for writing to “encourage anyone who sees what they believe to be an erroneous commission calculation for an item they’ve sold either in their shop or in the retail marketplace, to contact our customer service department so that we may resolve it.” I encourage people to do so, and to bring documentation, and to document their contacts after the fact.

  • Jim

    The reporting error, in case you were wondering, has still not been rectified.

  • JCollins

    Here are some answers:

    1) We generally adopt a communication medium and style which suites the nature, severity and scope of the issue at hand. We always intend to be as transparent as possible and we recognize and appreciate that there is room to improve in this area. If an issue affects all Shopkeepers we’ll post on our announcements page (and possibly send an email). If a select group of Shopkeepers are affected we’ll either send an email explaining the situation, or contact the Shopkeepers personally by phone. If it’s only a few instances, we tend to reach out personally by phone, through customer service.

    In this instance, CafePress internal staff and a select group of Shopkeepers became aware of the defect in parallel. CafePress took immediate action to isolate the root cause and understand the scope of the problem so that it could be stopped. To rectify the issue, we’re making a change so that cart items added from Marketplace, which belong to shops which are either closed or have opted out of the Marketplace, merchandise will be removed from the cart if the customer views his/her cart from within the marketplace context.

    2) This situation affected less than .01% of our shopkeepers and a total of 147 orders.

    3) I cannot answer this question with certainty, but I will assert a simple answer: The Shopkeepers who receive the greatest number of sales experience the highest exposure to the use case which triggered this defect (customer added to cart before the commission change, then purchased after store opted out). These same Shopkeepers are most impacted by the pricing and commission changes which went into effect on June 1, 2009 and as such are most likely to be outwardly vocal about the discrepancies they see in their order reports. We are working to close off any and all vectors which cause this issue and every commission discrepancy we see will be adjusted. We strongly urge Shopkeepers who see a discrepancy to contact our customer service department.

    4) A very good question, and we’re looking into this with Customer service. Your experience with customer service doesn’t match our expectations, and we apologize. In your case, it was your blog post that made the situation known to me – and hence the response.

    Regarding the reporting error, we are aware of it, we understand how to find all instances which match that signature in our records and they will be updated to reflect, and favor, Shop commissions (even though the product was originally added to cart from the Retail Marketplace when the shop was opted in). As stated above in this post, we will release a fix next week which will purge the cart of ‘opted out’ line items and prevent this in the future.

    Again, thank you posting and responding and if anyone else reading this post has commissions issues they believe to be questionable, please do contact our customer service team so we can review them.

    Josh
    Product Line Manager, Shops

  • Chris

    I wonder if it is time for complaints to be made to the CA Attorney General’s office.

    Something just does not seem right with all of this.

    • Jim

      Chris,

      I don’t know for sure what you mean. An Attorney General would prosecute legal violations. I’m not sure I see legal violations. I see a corporation that has not been forthcoming unless prodded in a noticeable way. But violation of law?

      • Chris

        If the CA Attorney General is anything like the NY Attorney General, it does not matter if there is anything wrong. It only matters if it will get his picture in the paper and 30 seconds on CNN.

  • Incog

    Thank you Jim for your enlightening articles. I am a shopkeeper. I have to wonder why it takes a well known and respected blog to have someone from Cafepress management come out of hiding. Your shopkeepers are the ones dealing with these issues. There are questions ad nauseum on the forum from them. They have faced a wall of silence and an enormous pay decrease which is, in some cases, horrifically affecting their lives. Josh, thank you for sharing this information. Sadly, such answers are not forthcoming to more of the people who deserve the answers.

  • **We generally adopt a communication medium and style which suites the nature, severity and scope of the issue at hand.**
    This seems to mean that the more serious the issue, the less likely they will communicate, at least that is the way it has been so far.

    They talk about transparency but don’t know the meaning of the word. Greed, Greed, Greed
    Unethical businesses like Cafepress should be boycotted.

  • Thank you, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for posting this here – I am one of the .01% shopkeepers (apparently) and I alone account for SEVEN of the 147 total orders — a statistical oddity to be SURE!! Below are the inane responses that we received when we complained:

    Dear Sheila,
    I apologize for the inconvenience. I have taken a look into this and I do see this issue has been escalated for you to see if there is any problem. However, please keep in mind that customers are given the option to add items to the shopping cart and purchase at a later date, in which this item may have been added to the shopping cart before you “opted out of the marketplace”. Shopping carts are still available for up to 30 days from the time the item is ordered. Also, items that are purchased from your storefront directly will begin with “030” and will continue on with the remainder of the product. However, the item purchased is just the full product number. Again, I do apologize for the inconvenience.
    If there is anything else I can do for you please let me know.

    Dear Sheila,

    I’m very sorry you’ve continued to have sales made from the marketplace. Unfortunately, it seems this may be a result of the most recent changes to the marketplace search algorithms. Therefore, I’ve notified the appropriate departments so we can get this resolved as soon as possible.

    In the meantime, I suggest unchecking the opt-out box for at least 24 hours, then rechecking it. This should cause the servers to update your account properly and remove all of your items from the marketplace.

    I apologize again for the trouble and hope this helps!

    *sigh* It is just INSANE how much time and energy is required of shopkeepers in order to just get a fair shake! CP changed the Markeplace and told us that if we didn’t like it, we could “opt out”… so we did. And STILL we have to fight them to make them play by their OWN rules!!

    :-P

  • Jim

    Update: These errors are still present in the CafePress Sales Reports for Irregular Times. They have not been fixed, and we are quite outside the 24-48 hour window CafePress customer service promised.

  • Amy

    I recieved notification of a sale 11 June that was credited to the marketplace. I had opted out on 25 May. I called CS immediately (morning of 11 June) and the rep agreed she saw the sale in question and had no explanation. Said she would check with the supervisors and someone would call or email me back. I have not heard from anyone yet – it’s 1:00pm 12 June.

    Before I called CP I also checked to see if the item was mistakenly available in the MP – it was not.

    I also wrote to the CP forum yesterday to see if others were having this problem. A number of people replied they had been told it was an issue of the item being put into the cart before they opted out. In my case, it was also before 1 June when the price changes went into effect (since I opted out on 25 May) – so it should have been a sale at my price and my mark-up. The forum replies also directed me to this blog and suggested I post.

  • Jean

    Amy, and all others, the word that CP is spreading in the forums at this point is that the carts are now fluid. As Cafepress is testing their marketplace prices to determine what customers will pay for specific items, the prices are changing on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. These changes are being passed onto the customer in their carts. So if the customer puts a t-shirt into their cart at $20 and Cafepress decides to try to see if they will sell for $30, the customer needs to beware of the prices in their cart and how much they were expecting to pay.
    The other very confusing aspect of this particular thing is that the reason Cafepress gave for the changes that they made on June 1st was that the customers were confused about different shopkeepers setting different prices on similar merchandise. But I guess that changing prices on an hourly basis while the test the market is not confusing to the customer.

  • Ingrid

    With all these issues why doesn’t someone contact the news organizations and see if they would be interested in a story such as this as the America’s attention is drawn to issues such as job losses, fraud and loss of income. I really think if enough write news organizations like Foxnews they would surely look into issues such as this.
    Come on, this affects a very large population of american as well as overseas artists. Think of the impact and revenue loss the states and the nation is losing.
    Think of your mortgage payments, auto payments, health care and don’t forget those medical bills we have.
    Do the right thing! Contact the news and have this brought to the attention of all Cafepress shoppers.

  • I agree with Ingrid. Not in a position to “spearhead” anything myself, for many of the same reasons that the ability to work from home is helpful to my husband and myself.

  • The same issue happened with my reports, and when I called about I just got the run-around. I have taken another shop out of the marketplace and will continue to monitor my reports.

  • Jim

    Golly, this seems like a lot of people to be speaking out if it really was just 147 orders.

    And guess what? Oh, you know what:

    More than 4 days after CafePress told me to “Give us about 24-48 hours to fix it,” the error in my Sales Report has not been fixed. And I never got the either of the calls back that CafePress promised.

    Come on back and soothe me some more, Josh Collins. I need some soothing over here. Explain this again to me.

  • Amy

    It’s been 5 days since I spoke to CS and I also have gotten none of the promised follow-up contact nor has my sales report been fixed.

  • Michael

    I wrote to CafePress about this problem six weeks ago, and got no response at all on this issue. People have been pointing out sales falsely labeled as marketplace for a long time, and CafePress has not fixed the problem.

    The usual term for lying to business partners and paying them less money than they are owed is fraud.

  • Update: I received this email from my shop rep…

    Hi Sheila,

    Sorry for the delayed response.

    These orders were legitimate Marketplace orders so the sales source is correct, however we understand your intentions in opting out of the marketplace and we want to honor those expectations you had of not receiving any Marketplace orders after opt out. Therefore, we will address this edge case by adjusting the sales reports (just the totals, so the source will still say Marketplace) to give you your full shop commission on these orders. This will be done by the end of the month and those shopkeepers affected will be notified via email.

    So, we’ll see. [shrug]

  • Recently CafePress began competing with the artists for whom it acts as printer and shipper.

    CafePress rents web shops to its artists. The artist creates a website page and manually loads the desired blank products. The artist imports his image onto each product, arranges the products on the page, describes the products, titles the products and tags the images.

    Initially, the artist would set a markup and received the markup for each product sold.

    However, recently CafePress began competing with its artists, using the artists’ own images. CafePress created a marketplace where a customer can search a keyword. That search brings up artist products. When the customer buys from the marketplace CafePress pays the artist 10% of the price CafePress set. Both the customer and the artist lose money. If the artist’s shop sells a t-shirt for $21, the artist makes $3.01. If the marketplace sells the same shirt for $25, the artist gets $2.50. The customer pays $4 more, and the artist gets $0.51 less.

    CafePress tells artists to “promote your own shop,” but CafePress buys Google adwords using the very image tags the artist provided.

    CafePress justifies this bait and switch of service terms by telling artists they can opt out if they don’t like the new terms; however, many have spent as much as 7 or 8 years creating as much as 88000 images.

    In spite of their sweat-equity, many shopkeepers (content providers) are building shops at other print-on-demand companies and then closing their CafePress shops due to the broken faith and trust, the financial hardship CafePress has delivered into so many lives, and the huge amount of time and dedicated effort all lost in the momentum of their own businesses. Would you keep your AMOCO station franchise if AMOCO built a company store across the street from you?

  • Ingrid

    Well put Linkin!

    I would bet someone of your vast knowledge of words would be able to send a very official looking and catch the interest of the news organizations I spoke of earlier. Something must be made public about cafepress.

    With the Whitehouse administration very concerned about the job loss and loss of income among Americans this would be a very interesting story for places like FOX NEWS!

    If we could come up with the actual circumstances and the approximate number of shopkeepers being affected it just might bring this to light.

    Many a company / organization have done wrong and have gotten caught by the news agencies. If in fact Cafepress is not treating their partners / shopkeepers correctly the story needs to be told.

    I heard there are millions of shopkeepers and if that is correct, it surely does affect the economy!

    Mr. Linkin thank you and have a very nice day!
    You also have awesome military designs in your shops.

  • Cat E.

    I was wondering why my markup was different than what I had designated when I set up the shop. Now I see that when the items sale through the “Marketplace”, CafePress receives a higher proportion of the sale price.

    I might be okay with that EXCEPT that it seems as if there is no way to actually GET to my shop through a search or any links. Am I mistaken, or was it possible in the past to click on “From Myshopsname” and actually get to my shop. Now that isn’t even a link, and if you click on the link “from this designer”, it just takes you to a list of my products (not my actual shop).

    This is dishonest business. There is no way to actually get to my shop through a search now. Even if a person types in languagehearts at the end of the URL after searching for my shop name, it still says “ http://shop.cafepress.com/myshopsname ” rather than “ http://cafepress.com/myshopsname ” .

    I knew I wouldn’t make a fortune on this, but to be cheated out of a few cents (when the monthly fee is already too hight, afterall, where would they be without the artists?) for their gain is just ugly –and especially troubling in these times of blatant graft.

    (Can I send you a pgn or pdf to illustrate?)

  • I had a strange sale a few days ago. I am not opted out of the marketplace yet but I do track the traffic to my site. I got a marketplace sale on an item on june 28. I checked my traffic stats for and saw that someone had visited the exact same page through a google search on the same day.

    Now I have no hard evidence but I find it a strange coincidence that I made a mp sale of a product on a day that I brought in my own traffic to that product. I don’t sell a ton of shirts and its rare that I get google traffic to that product which is why it makes me skeptical. Oh and the fact that Cafepress just plain cant be trusted anymore.

    Not sure if it is worth bring up to cp.

  • I am a small shop. Have had a store since 2000. I just now noticed this marketplace commission percentage and figure I have lost half my commissions for the month because of Marketplace sales. What do they think they are doing? Well, it seems Cafepress is taking half my markup and pocketing it! How do you take your store off the marketplace and will that mean it doesn’t show up in the search engine? I am going to pursue this, because I think it’s unfair to us shopkeepers.

    • Jim

      Yes, if you take your store off the marketplace, that will mean it doesn’t show up in the CafePress search engine. You will have to link to your products from your own separate web page.

      To take your CafePress store off the marketplace, log in to your account, click on the “Your Shops” tab, click on the name of your shop, click on “Edit Shop Profile,” then select the option that reads “Affiliate Eligibility Opt-out – I do not wish for this shop, its designs or products to appear in the Marketplace or be eligible for Affiliate-driven sales.”

  • Anne

    That sucks! Pardon my French. I think I’m going to move from CafePress. I hope more people do, because what they are doing is costing customers more, paying artists less and putting more money in CafePress’s coffers.

  • Cassie

    Affiliates are finding their sales at CP are not tracking much now either.

  • John

    Wow, I am overwhelmingly disappointed in Cafepress. As a professional designer, I used to recommend them to clients, non-profits, schools, businesses, etc, as a great way to help their causes. Can’t do that anymore (at least with good conscience). In fact, I just designed a website for a company and recommended CP to them. This week, I will strongly urge against it — it’s just not worth it anymore.

    On the one hand, I understand this is a difficult economy and business have been forced to become extremely crafty about gathering every penny to stay afloat. However, the latest changes seem so unlike Cafepress. I have had 2 shops with them from the time they started. Usually, there is a consideration and respect for store owners/designers, and the people they hire always seemed to have a high level of professional standards. That said, I’m not sure I understand the context of the recent changes (unless, perhaps, there has been a new wave of management).

    For myself, I felt the gutting of my sales recently. It used to be that the yearly fee for 2 shops was waaay more than easily covered with my sales. Now, I honestly make what seems to be pennies compared to what I did before. I never had to ask myself if it was worth it to have a shop, but now I do. With the recent changes, it’s almost like I’m *paying them* to do whatever they decide to with my designs. On that note, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more uproar about the recent assertion that they can alter the color, etc, of your design for printing purposes. The writing in that clause seemed fairly vague to me and rather over-reaching.

    It simply does *not* make good business sense to me to pay a yearly fee to have a shop where I have less and less control over my designs and the amount of profit they generate in order to be included in an over-saturated “Marketplace.” To be frank, it is wiser to take the time and effort involved in putting an image on CP products and use it, instead, to submit your designs for some products at stationary companies, at Target, at Papyrus, etc. You would actually stand to make more money worth your time on licensing or payment of usage for your designs. The original Cafepress spirit of empowering independent design and entrepreneurialism seems to be gone. Right now, no designer in their right mind would agree to these sweatshop-like terms of engagement.

    And yes, I understand it is their “Marketplace”, they pay for ad words to advertise the designs, they pay for production and distribution and most likely a host of other business costs that go unmentioned; however, the scales have tipped far too much. I predict that a host of people who pay the premium yearly store rate will take a huge hit in sales from this and consider closing their stores like I am. They will go elsewhere as their profitability hugely drops. The “Marketplace” will become over-saturated with crappy designs and stores because no decent designers will take CP seriously as a business partner. There are so many more options out there worth one’s time.

    I honestly miss the old Cafepress. Whoever thought up this crappy idea must be patting themselves on the back as the new profits have been flooding in, but the embers of disappointment on the web regarding these changes are turning into a wildfire. It used to be that you could barely find a complaint in cyberspace about CP, but not any more. I’m so sad to say that I am taking my business and designs elsewhere. You broke my heart CP; now I have to break up with you. :(

  • Terri

    I haven’t had enough sales to notice even though I’ve
    been there awhile. But I only have basic shops and have just started expanding.

    However I have noticed that if one contacts Customer Service as opposed to Tech Help there is a difference. Customer service so far has been helpful. Tech help always gives me ‘we can’t recreate the problem. Check your end.’
    This is NOT HELPFUL. At the very least it means they won’t admit errors or mistakes. I’m far more forgiving to people who admit mistakes. If I get a big Server error message it certainly isn’t my end! If I get a script not responding error every time and they say maybe you have too many products (in a basic shop and the new one too?) or you should close and reopen it astounds me.
    Whatever they’ve gained by this marketplace switch, they certainly aren’t putting money into tech support.Even if it is a bug, I’ll bet they aren’t in any hurry to fix it. They sure don’t rush to fix the others.

    Look out Cafepress. I’m not quitting yet but I’m branching out and you can bet all my new stuff will be on the other side. And I don’t see anywhere near the limits imposed on me at the other place than by my free basic shops.
    Come on Cafepress! Stop ignoring the feedback. You aren’t the only game in town. We want you to get better. Refusing to allow anyone to post opposition in the forum doesn’t mean they won’t find the competition. If your going to take a bigger cut use it for improvements at least!

  • J wainner

    ***I’ve read the above BLOGS with great interest after having come across CafePress just yesterday on the Internet. None of the NEGATIVE things written here surprise me very much…
    because I have been studying the CafePress website…and there are MANY, MANY, MANY instances
    where LOGO DESIGNS and FLAG DESIGNS (all of which are copyrighted), are being used illegally
    to sell products! I don’t know who the Graphic Designers are for these specific items…don’t
    really care, but CafePress is RESPONSIBLE for all content on their website. People…you
    can’t just go around and use ANY LOGO you like and print up T-shirts, etc. and make money selling them to the public…it’s AGAINST THE LAW. Even slight changes to some of the LOGOs I
    saw, were NOT enough that you could see a real difference. I get the impression that CafePress
    doesn’t care what is or is not “legal”…just so they’re making a lot of $$$$$$$**********

  • Does anyone know if the CP MP issues have been corrected? Do anyone know of any lawsuits against CafePress for MP Errors and ruining peoples lives?

    Any info would be great.

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